When Mother Nature Strikes

With hurricane and typhoon season in full swing, it can be daunting to think about what might happen if another storm hits.

Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered.

Look no further than to our very own, James Van Fleet, the only weather forecaster working full time for a cruiseline. As our chief meteorologist, he is responsible for letting guests and employees know about weather conditions, contingency plans for avoiding trouble, and safe ports to tuck into as needed.

As for shipboard employees, he creates weekly video weathercasts to let them know if they’ll have smooth sailing ahead or not. With these videos, he offers “some explanation, showing (guests and crew), here’s this system or here’s what’s going to happen, and if we went this way, this is what we’d see. So this is why we’re going to do X, Y, Z.”

The videos were a response to 2017’s historic hurricane season in the Caribbean, which prompted a 7,000 percent increase in Royal Caribbean International’s social media traffic, says Aurora Yera-Rodriguez, Director of Guest Relations for Royal Caribbean International.

We all know her as Laly and she describes herself and her work as offering love, mothering and “squishiness” for the people who entrust their vacations with us.

“You picked me to spend your precious vacation time with,” Laly says. “I’ve gotta love you. That’s my entire job.”

“You add a hurricane to that, a factor that’s so unpredictable, uncontrollable, that it becomes a very, very emotional thing. It’s important for us to always remember and understand that.”

Some of us may remember going on the evacuation cruise during Hurricane Irma last year and already know that a cruise ship is one of the safest places to be during serious weather. While those in affected cities must flee, a cruise ship is free to move to a calmer area. During the evacuation cruise, employees, their families, and pets sailed to the lee side of Cuba, where it became command central during the storm.

To feed the need for information to pass on to guests and employees, James has multiple global weather sources – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To disseminate that info and interact with guests and employees, Laly leads an around-the-clock team that aggregates social media posts, emails, texts and other channels to track their questions and concerns and responds quickly.

Laly says she still receives thanks for her team’s work on the hurricanes, and not only from guests.

“Just yesterday an intern proudly told us that when she got the job, she told her family, ‘Hey, I’m gonna be working for the folks that saved you guys from Puerto Rico.’”

Rarely do commendations for a job well done come as high.

Article found on internal employee website.

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